Tanzania in massive drive against elephantiasis

Dr Donan Mmbando, the Permanent Secretary in the  Ministry of Health speaking at the launch of countrywide campaign against neglected tropical diseases

Dr Donan Mmbando, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health speaking at the launch of countrywide campaign against neglected tropical diseases

Tanzania’s Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) has embarked on a countrywide campaign to control Lymphatic Filariasis commonly known as elephantiasis targeting to offer free massive drug administration to all people above five years.

The disease is caused by the parasitic thread-like worm, Wuchereria bancrofti, and is transmitted to humans through the bites of mosquitoes. Long-term infection of the disease can lead to painful and disfiguring chronic enlargement of the arms and legs of people of all ages. It also causes severe swelling in the genitals of males; a condition known as hydrocele.

According to Dr Donan Mmbando, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children, the disease is heavily contributing to economic standstill at family level and the national at large.

The government has reaffirmed commitment to enhance efforts to fight neglected tropical diseases including soil-transmitted helminthiasis, Leishmaniasis, shistosomiasis and trachoma which are still ravaging nationals in the East African nation.

Figures from the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) unit indicate that Leishmaniasis alone has affected 4 million people in six regions and 21 districts. Trachoma is reported in 18 regions affecting over 12 million people while soil-transmitted helminthiasis has also affected millions.

Dr Edward Kirumbi, the Acting National Coordinator of the Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit explained at the launch of a countrywide campaign that they are working together with other health partners to control the disease. “The government has been spending over Tzsh500m annually to facilitate clearance and distribution of massive drugs administered to victims across the country,” he added

The permanent secretary announced the campaign will start in eight regions this month and a roll out plan for other regions is planned for January. The regions are Dar es Salaam, Katavi, Rukwa, Singida, Dodoma, Mtwara, Lindi and Coast Region.

The government says that it will put an end to the diseases by 2020, but the latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO) released this year warns of likely challenges to reduce poverty owing to the presence of neglected tropical diseases.

“As the world’s focus shifts from MDGs to Sustainable Development Goals, from poverty eradication to shared prosperity, and from disease-specific goals to universal health coverage, control of NTDs will assume an important role towards the target of achieving universal health coverage, including individual financial risk protection,” reads part of the report.

According to the World Health Organization: “ worldwide there are more than 1 billion people at risk for infection of elephantiasis, with one third living in Africa and more than 120 million people are infected with the disease with 40 million living in Africa while 44 million people have symptoms of the disease.